A Mosa­ic of Israel’s Tra­di­tions: Uni­ty Through Diversity

Esther Shkalim; Diana Schiowitz; Frie­da Hor­witz, eds.
  • Review
By – March 30, 2012

This beau­ti­ful ref­er­ence book, a project of the AMIT edu­ca­tion­al net­work in Israel, teach­es us about the Jew­ish hol­i­days and the cus­toms and tra­di­tions prac­ticed by dif­fer­ent Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties around the world — some authen­ti­cal­ly Jew­ish, oth­ers which devel­oped under the influ­ence of the local envi­ron­ment. Each chap­ter begins with an expla­na­tion of the hol­i­day, bib­li­cal ref­er­ences, and its place in Jew­ish his­to­ry and geog­ra­phy. AMIT stu­dents were asked to describe an aspect of how their immi­grant fam­i­ly cel­e­brat­ed the hol­i­day in the old coun­try,” some­times with a com­ment on how that prac­tice dif­fers from their obser­vance since the family’s aliyah to Israel. Many of the descrip­tions are accom­pa­nied by pho­tos of rit­u­al objects, cloth­ing, or food. The author then explains the back­ground for the cus­toms pre­sent­ed. The fas­ci­nat­ing tra­di­tions come from as many places as the stu­dents them­selves: Bukhara, Ethiopia, Hun­gary, India, Iran, Kur­dis­tan, Libya, Moroc­co, Poland, Roma­nia, Rus­sia, Syr­ia, Tunisia, Yemen. I learned about dif­fer­ent Shab­bat foods and pos­si­ble rea­sons for the hav­dalah spice box tow­er shape, about hol­i­days unfa­mil­iar to me such as the Ethiopi­an Sigd, the Moroc­can obser­vance of Mimouna – Isru Chag Pesach (the day after Passover) and dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties’ cel­e­bra­tions of Purim Sheni (sec­ond Purim). Bib­li­og­ra­phy, foot­notes, glos­sary, pho­to credits.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nas­sau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

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